Material Performance: Fibrous Tectonics & Architectural Morphology

A new understanding of the material in architecture is beginning to arise. No longer are we bound to conceive of the digital realm as separated from the physical world. Instead we can begin to explore computation as an intense interface to material and vice versa. Thus materiality no longer remains a fixed property and passive receptor of form, but it transforms into an active generator of design and an adaptive agent of architectural performance. Accordingly, and in contrast to linear and mechanistic modes of fabrication and construction, materialization now begins to coexist with design as explorative robotic processes.

The studio explores the notion of material performance, its manifold and its deep interrelations with technology, biology and culture with a particular focus on advanced fiber composite materials. In biology most load-bearing structures are fibrous systems. These natural composites share their fundamental characteristics with manmade composites such as glass- or carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics. But in contrast to the biological systems and their astounding morphological differentiation, technical fiber composites are usually considered to be amorphic – that is intrinsically formless and thus dependent on external formwork. The studio challenges this conception. Instead of understanding fibrous form as being obedient to a predefined mould, it strives to reveal the ‘morphic’ character of fibrous systems and discover their inherent material gestalt.

The studio introduces a design approach that bridges between the cultural as well as technical dimension of fibrous materials in architecture and the rich repertoire of fibrous material organization in nature. Students will investigate biological and technological fibrous systems, experiment hands-on with robotic fiber lay-up and filament winding processes, and pursue the development of fibrous systems in architecture as novel spatial and structural potentials. They will engage with a computational design approach that conceives of materiality and materialization as an active generator of form, space and structure, which enables the uncovering of novel fibrous tectonics and formerly unexplored architectural morphologies, and hints at an emerging material culture.

Achim Menges will be in residence on the following dates: August 31, September 1, 3, 4, 24 and 25, October 8, 9, 22 and 23, November 19 and 20, and for Final Reviews in December.